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20 Page Turners: Best YA Horse Books on the Shelf

best ya horse books
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Written by Susie W.

Voracious equestrian readers have met their match!

There are so many amazing books about horses out there, how can you possibly figure out where to start? We’ve evaluated books from various time periods and genres and evaluated them based on the suggested reading age to create the list below. It includes classics such as Black Beauty, non-fiction like The Horse Encyclopedia, and even biographies.

Dive into the list below to find the best horse-themed books for all ages. As someone who grew up obsessed with horses (and still is!), these reads will put a smile on the face of any YA recipient. 

My Friend Flicka

My Friend Flicka was written by Mary O’Hara and published in 1941. This classic book is about Ken, the son of a rancher in Wyoming. At ten years old, Ken is a dreamer, struggling to enter the world of work and responsibility.

When he first sees Flicka, he knows she is the horse he has been waiting for. Flicka comes from Mustang stock, however, and taming her will be much more difficult than Ken imagined.

Ken is faced with a difficult choice…but we won’t spoil the ending!

my friend flicka

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: 8-12
  • Pages: 352
  • Part of a series: No

See it at Amazon

Misty of Chincoteague

Misty of Chincoteague is a novel written by Marguerite Henry and published in 1947. It is the first in a series of three books about the Ponies of Chincoteague. The books take place in the island town of Chincoteague, Virginia, which is home to a band of centuries-old wild ponies.

We follow orphans Paul and Maureen as they attempt to buy an elusive wild pony, Phantom, and her filly, Misty.

What makes these books extra special is that they are based on true events. Chincoteague is a real island and a National Wildlife Refuge. Assateague, a nearby island and a place in the book, is a National Seashore. This series could pair nicely with a family vacation to see these places in person!

misty of chincoteague

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: 8-12
  • Pages: 176
  • Part of a series: Yes—Ponies of Chincoteague

See it at Amazon

National Velvet

National Velvet was written by Enid Bagnold and published in 1935. The story is about Velvet Brown, a 14-year-old English girl who comes from ordinary means, but accomplishes great things. She wins a horse (The Piebald) in a raffle and trains him to jump in a prestigious race, the Grand National steeplechase.

Popular with young horse lovers, this book appeals to readers of all ages.

national velvet

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: 8-18
  • Pages: 320
  • Part of a series: No

See it at Amazon

The Black Stallion

Written by Walter Farley, The Black Stallion was first published in 1941. The main character, Alec, is shipwrecked with a wild stallion on a deserted island. They learn to depend on each other for survival, developing a strong bond. Once rescued, the pair goes on to train and race together.

The Black Stallion is the first book in a 20-book series about the adventures of Alec, the Black, and the stallion’s offspring.

the black stallion

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: 8-12
  • Pages: 187
  • Part of a series: Yes—The Black Stallion Adventures

See it at Amazon

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Hunter Seat Equitation

Hunter Seat Equitation is a classic written by George H. Morris. Morris is considered to be the founding father of hunt seat equitation. First published in 1971, the book is now on its third edition, most recently released in 1990. A work of nonfiction, this book is about teaching and riding the hunter seat.

Black and white photos are included throughout the book. It is a great starting point to learning the basics of good horsemanship and developing a foundation for correct riding.

Many consider this book to be “the riding Bible, written by the master of the sport.”

hunter seat equitation

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: 12+
  • Pages: 224
  • Part of a series: No

See it at Amazon

Black Beauty

Black Beauty was written by Anna Sewell and published in 1877. Set in Victorian England in a pre-auto era, the book follows the life of a horse through the horse’s eyes. Initially, Black Beauty’s owners are kind, but he is sold multiple times to progressively worse owners.

Anna Sewell was an activist for humane treatment of horses and uses the book to help people see animals in a new way.

While not initially meant as a children’s book, it is a timeless classic that teaches the power of kindness.

black beauty

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: 13-18
  • Pages: 140
  • Part of a series: No

See it at Amazon

A Horse Called Wonder

A Horse Called Wonder, authored by Joanna Campbell, was first published in 1991. A work of fiction, the book follows Ashleigh Griffen as her family takes over as breeding managers at Townsend Acres. Following tragedy, Ashleigh is slow to connect with the horses, until a sickly foal is born.

Follow Ashleigh as she tries to save the foal that no one thinks will live. This is the first book in a 72-book series (it’ll keep you busy for a while!)

Initially focused around Kentucky Thoroughbred racing, the series is primarily intended for a pre-teen, female audience.

a horse called wonder

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: 9-12
  • Pages: 192
  • Part of a series: Yes—the Thoroughbred Series

See it at Amazon

Brighty of the Grand Canyon

The second book on this list written by Marguerite Henry, Brighty of the Grand Canyon was published in 1953. It is a fictionalized account of a real-life burro named “Brighty” who lived in the Grand Canyon in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Brighty befriended a prospector who was murdered! The burro, Brighty, risks everything to help bring the killer to justice.

The movie version of the book came out in 1966, a few years before the Park Service resumed its campaign to eradicate burros from the Grand Canyon. Between the book and the movie, burro advocates young and old alike came together to defend the animals, an action that influenced the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971.

A statue of Brighty stands in the lobby of the Grand Canyon lodge to this day!

brighty of the grand canyon

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: 8-12
  • Pages: 224
  • Part of a series: No

See it at Amazon

The Horse and His Boy

A Horse and His Boy is the third book of seven in the Narnia series, written by C.S. Lewis. Originally published in 1954, the book follows two runaways that join forces with two Talking Horses to escape to Narnia. The four are only looking to get away but find themselves at the center of a battle that will decide not only their fates, but the fate of Narnia itself.

This fantasy certainly isn’t the most equine-accurate book on this list, but it is still a classic and an enjoyable action/adventure read!

a horse and his boy

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: 8-12
  • Pages: 256
  • Part of a series: Yes—The Chronicles of Narnia

See it at Amazon

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Billy and Blaze: A Boy and His Pony

Billy and Blaze was written by C.W. Anderson and published in 1936. It is book one of a nine book series and targets the youngest age bracket of readers on this list. Book one is all about Billy, a horse-crazy boy, who gets his very first pony for his birthday.

He and Blaze learn to trust and understand each other, and eventually try to win the silver cup at the Mason Horse Show. Perfect for young readers, the book includes drawings and easy-to-read words.

The only downside? Your child may start asking for a pony of their own!

billy and blaze

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: 5-8
  • Pages: 56
  • Part of a series: Yes—the Billy & Blaze Series

See it at Amazon

Seabiscuit: An American Legend

Seabiscuit: An American legend was written by Laura Hillenbrand and originally published in 1996. It was made into a feature film in 2003 and includes actors like Tobey Maguire, who played the jockey, Red Pollard. The book is a biography of the famous Thoroughbred racehorse, Seabiscuit. Hillenbrand did meticulous research to bring the story to life.

Characters include Tom Smith, a mustang breaker from Colorado, who encourages millionaire Charles Howard to buy Seabiscuit, a crooked-legged racehorse that had been written off. Smith then hires Red Pollard, a failed boxer who was blind in one eye, to be Seabiscuit’s jockey.

This unlikely team overcame the odds to become the “single biggest newsmaker in the world in 1938, receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini.”

seabiscuit

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: 15+
  • Pages: 399
  • Part of a series: No

See it at Amazon

Horse Crazy – Book 1 of the Saddle Club Series

Horse Crazy is the first book in the Saddle Club Series which totals 70 books. Written by Bonnie Bryant, it appeals to young girls in grades 4-8. The first book begins with characters Carole Hanson and Stevie Lake, two twelve-year-old’s that are best friends and (obviously, thanks to the title) horse crazy.

When thirteen-year-old Lisa Atwood arrives at Pine Hollow Stables, the three become fast friends.

Together, the group works together to overcome obstacles as they prepare for a Mountain Trail Overnight campout for the students of the stable.

saddle club

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: 8-12
  • Pages: 144
  • Part of a series: Yes—The Saddle Club

See it at Amazon

The Scorpio Races

Written by Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races is a work of fantasy fiction about man-eating water horses that race each year. Main character Puck is the first girl to ever enter the competition—she faces returning champion, Sean.

One reader described the book as “the paranormal version of Misty of Chincoteague with romance.” This book is based on Celtic legends around a mythical creature called eich uisce, or water horse.

Geared towards an older audience, it has some elements of romance but does not adhere to classic expectations.

scorpio races

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: 13+
  • Pages: 448
  • Part of a series: No

See it at Amazon

Ghost Horse

The book Ghost Horse was written by Janni Lee Simner and published in 1996. It is the first book in a three-book series, Phantom Rider. In this book, twelve-year-old Callie has just moved to Arizona and is not having a great time.

One night, she sees a ghostly, equine apparition outside of her window. The horse, Star, is looking for help to be reunited with her owner, Michael.

An added bonus? The author, a southwest native, does a fantastic job detailing desert flora and fauna.

ghost horse

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: 9-12
  • Pages: 136
  • Part of a series: Yes—Phantom Rider

See it at Amazon

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Smoky the Cowhorse

Author Will James wrote Smoky the Cowhorse and published it in 1926. Set in the western United States, Smoky is born in the wild, but later captured and trained by cowboy Clint.

Known as one of the best cow horses around, Smoky is stolen by a horse thief and comes to hate humans. He is used as a bucking bronco, and later a riding horse. Smoky endures cruelty before being reunited with Clint for a happy ending.

The book was made into a movie three times in 1933, 1946, and most recently in 1966.

smoky the cowhorse

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: 8-12
  • Pages: 336
  • Part of a series: No

See it at Amazon

King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian

Written by Marguerite Henry, (yes, this is the third book by this author on our list!) King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian was first published in 1948. It won the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s literature in 1949 and was made into a film in 1990.

It is based on true events that led to the beginning of the Thoroughbred breed of horses. The main character, an Arabian horse named Sham, goes on adventures with Agba, his stable boy. They travel across the sands of the Sahara, to the French court, and finally to England.

Sham’s story, and his speed, are a thing of legends.

king wind

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: 8-12
  • Pages: 176
  • Part of a series: No

See it at Amazon

The Horse Whisperer

Authored by Nicholas Evans, The Horse Whisperer is a novel that was published in 1995 and later became a feature film starring Robert Redford and Scarlett Johansson. The book sold over 15 million copies, making it one of the best-selling books of all time.

The story begins when a teenager, Grace, and her horse, Pilgrim, are hit by a tractor-trailer. Both horse and human are extremely traumatized by the event. Grace’s mother, Annie, hears of a horse whisperer in Montana and travels to find him with her daughter and horse.

Because this story also includes an affair, it’s best saved for teenagers 15 and up.

the horse whisperer

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: 15+
  • Pages: 448
  • Part of a series: No

See it at Amazon

War Horse

Set in 1914, War Horse is Michael Morpurgo’s story of a farm horse sold into the army during World War 1. It was published in 1982 and is part of the Scholastic Gold Line, which features award-winning, beloved novels.

The book is written from the horse’s point of view. A beautiful red-bay horse, Joey is trained to fight in the war in France. His previous owner, Albert, attempts to bring him home safely.

The book was made into a movie produced by Steven Spielberg in 2011.

horse scholastic gold

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: 9-12
  • Pages: 176
  • Part of a series: No

See it at Amazon

Mary’s Song

Mary’s Song was written by Susan Count and published in 2016. It is the story of a twelve-year-old girl who was disabled by a virus that also killed her mother. Confined to a wheelchair, Mary is limited to reading horse books. She is also an artist and enjoys sketching the horses that live next door. When a filly is born lame, Mary struggles to save it.

This book is the first in a four-book series.

mary's song

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: 9-12
  • Pages: 122
  • Part of a series: Yes—Dream Horse Adventures

See it at Amazon

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The Horse Encyclopedia

This non-fiction volume was written by Elwyn Hartley Edwards and is touted as “a lavish celebration of all things equine.” It includes breed-specific information along with historical and cultural components. Gorgeous photography of everything from small ponies to massive draft horses is combined with comprehensive advice on horse care. The breadth of information provided will appeal to equine enthusiasts of all ages!

horse encyclopedia

Click to see it at Amazon

What’s to Love:

  • Appropriate for Ages: All Ages
  • Pages: 360
  • Part of a series: No

See it at Amazon

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best horse book for 7 year olds?

While most of the books on this list are geared towards 8-12 year old’s, the Billy & Blaze series is perfect for children 5-8 years old.

What is the best book series for 10 year olds or tweens?

Ten-year-old’s have a ton of popular horse-themed book series targeted at them! Both the Thoroughbred Series and the Saddle Club series are highly recommended and will keep kids occupied for a very long time.

What is the best teenage horse book series?

Heartland, the popular show on Netflix, started with a book series that is perfect for teenage readers.

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What is the best fiction horse book for adults?

While many of the books on our list are classics that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages, some are geared towards children. Here is a list of equine-focused books recommended for adult readers.

eight dollar champion

Click to see it at Amazon

Adult Books

Parting Thoughts

There is no shortage of equine-inspired reading material available—so much that it can be hard to choose! This list contains some of the most popular horse-themed books of all time. It includes everything from fiction to fantasy and even non-fiction, spanning centuries.

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Sources/References

https://www.countryliving.com/life/entertainment/g36492408/best-horse-books/
https://www.amazon.com/Teen-Young-Adult-Equestrian-Fiction/b?ie=UTF8&node=10368585011
https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/1766.Best_YA_Horse_Books
https://bookriot.com/15-equestrians-pick-best-books-young-horse-lovers/
https://www.horseillustrated.com/horse-fun-30-best-horse-books
https://www.npca.org/articles/1409-the-burro-quandary
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/110737.Seabiscuit
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10626594-the-scorpio-races
 
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About the author

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Susie W.

Horses are my first love, but travel is a close second! I grew up riding in 4-H and went on to ride on my college equestrian team. As an adult, I've ridden and shown Quarter Horses for 20+ years, including several wins at Quarter Horse Congress. I also worked for 7 years at a leading horse feed company, and I'm passionate about equine health and nutrition. Lastly, I have a big soft spot in my heart for senior horses!

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